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Karen Wallace: Planning the learning experience

By Ashley Durk

Karen Wallace is the Conference Administrator at the Learning Institute. She has been at the helm of conference management at SickKids since Oct. 2013.

Wallace provides expert consultation and mentoring to departments across the organization through the planning, development and implementation of conference events. A graduate of George Brown’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program, she contributes 30 years of hospitality and event management experience. Her role has been vital in supporting local, national and international events, focusing on a range of educational topics from broad health-care issues to complex clinical conditions.

“As the Conference Administrator in the Learning Institute, Karen works with interprofessional colleagues across the organization to organize educational events for staff, students, families and the community,” says Kelly McMillen, Director of the Learning Institute. “Karen brings a wealth of event management expertise to her role and we are very fortunate to have her as part of the SickKids team!”

Tell us about an initiative that you are working on to support learning at SickKids.

I am currently working on the second conference in a series called Helping Kids Cope. It takes place Nov. 15, 2014. It is supported by an endowment established by John T. Law to be used for educational purposes at SickKids. The first conference was held in April, which focused on anxiety and depression. The feedback we received was powerful and clarified our mission with the endowment to help families with teens and youth in need. 

How does learning make SickKids a better place?

Learning at SickKids reaches so many people. The education and learning systems not only increase the medical knowledge, but also help with our inter-professional goals as we understand each other’s roles and continue to grow professionally. Learning contributes to our mission, Healthier Children. A Better World. 

What makes working at SickKids special?

Knowing that the work I do contributes to high-quality events that enhance learning. It makes me feel like I am helping health professionals and families. If our conferences and events run smoothly and we offer superior learning opportunities, we are continuing educational growth and ultimately improving lives.

How do you think education will change in the future?

Interactive learning is becoming huge in education and I believe the more interactive the teaching, the more is learned. I think engaging the learner in new and exciting avenues of learning will be seen more and more. Gamification – using game design to engage learners – will be one of the most popular teaching methods. It not only maximizes the enjoyment of learning, but it motivates learning through personal achievement and healthy competition.

Who was your all-time favourite educator, and why?

That’s a really tough question as there were a few. I would have to say my culinary professor, Chef Jacques Marie. He was from Paris and loved all things culinary. He was engaging, interactive, and informative. Putting on a chef’s uniform and stepping into a culinary lab for the first time was incredibly intimidating. He made us feel welcome, although still a bit nervous. He loved to laugh with us, but he was also very demanding. He celebrated his students’ successes and helped us learn from our failures. He talked to us as if we were the future chefs of the world, making us feel like we could accomplish anything we set our minds on.